Happy single but lonely? 9 key reasons you feel this way

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Are you happy being single but still feel lonely sometimes?

Being single has its pros and cons. A lot of us singletons really enjoy our freedom and independence. But it doesn’t mean that we don’t feel a little bit of loneliness creep in from time to time too.

If you’re happy single but lonely, here’s why you’re probably feeling this way.

1) Because a certain amount of loneliness is a fundamental part of the human condition

On the face of it, this doesn’t sound like a very cheery point to make. But actually recognizing that to a certain extent, loneliness is a universal condition we will all experience at times can offer comfort.

It’s not just you, it happens to us all.

More significantly, it also happens whether you are in a relationship or not.

Chronic loneliness is a terrible thing, but the reality is that all of us will experience feeling lonely at some point in our life.

And having a partner certainly doesn’t guarantee you won’t ever feel that way. In fact, loneliness can even be compounded when you experience it despite being with someone else.

Existential thinkers have long pondered the role of feeling lonely in the human condition.For example, Thomas Wolfe‘s 1930s essay entitled ‘God’s Lonely Man’.

In it, he points out that we all imagine our own loneliness is unique or special, when in fact we all share this feeling.

I think it’s even this feeling that makes loneliness so isolating. Because we fear deep down it’s something about us that is being rejected by others, or we wouldn’t feel that way.

He concludes that despite efforts to alleviate feeling lonely, it’s never going to be fully successful. Whatsmore he doesn’t think it should be, arguing that a certain amount of loneliness is not only unavoidable but can actually be good for us.

Loneliness is all part of the ups and downs of living and the human experience. Whilst that may not offer much consolation, it hopefully does help to know that we all feel this way.

2) Because society tells us we’re not already whole

I am 100% happy being single…apart from when I’m not.

On a practical level, I really enjoy the flexibility, adventure, and independence of being single. But at the back of my head, there is also always a part of me that still wants to find someone to share my life with.

I’ve often pondered why this is if I genuinely do enjoy being single so much. Maybe it is a biological drive, who knows.

But I also think part of the answer lies in society’s attitudes towards romantic partnerships. Much of which is actually pretty unhealthy when you dig deeper into it.

We throw around terms like “other half” in reference to partners, without giving much thought to the message we’re giving out.

Does that mean alone I am only half a person?

Of course not. But perhaps the hidden danger with concepts like twin flames or finding “the one” is that it spoon-feeds us a notion that something is missing within us.

We all grow up being told fairy tales about someone else being the missing part of our puzzle.

On a psychological level, there’s no wonder this can leave you feeling empty without even knowing why.

There is still an undeniable cultural belief pushed onto us that having a partner is the solution to your emotional problems. But what if that’s not the case?

Personally, I don’t think it is. I think the solution only lies within us. But it’s easier to project the hopes that someone else will provide us with whatever we feel is lacking.

3) Because human beings are built to be social creatures

Fundamentally at our core, we’re hard-wired to connect.

In all of the animal kingdom, we have some of the most complicated social behaviors. And it’s this that has got us where we are today as the most advanced species on the planet.

As biological anthropologist from the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, Michael Platt, Ph.D., explains:

“This social behavior is a critical part of our adaptive toolkit. It allows us to come together and do things that we wouldn’t be able to do on our own. We’re only just beginning to uncover how these mechanisms may operate in real-world activities, and the findings are really exciting.”

This strong urge for connection is so powerful that social pain is real pain. From an evolutionary point of view, a fear of being left out was a genuine threat to your survival.

There are certain instinctive drives that you cannot simply wipe out of your system. And social pain and pleasure are very real features of our operating system.

4) Because you feel like something is still missing from your life

As I touched upon already, society suggests the answers to what we are missing lies in another person, but it’s not true.

But because of this, you can’t help but wonder if another person will fill a void. We might automatically question whether a partner would make us feel better when we experience loneliness for example.

But as Justin Brown so powerfully highlights in his video ‘How to be happily single—even when you want a partner‘, that’s the wrong way of going about things.

In it, he explains his own personal experience of simultaneously enjoying the single life, whilst also wanting a relationship.

Most importantly, he offers up a simple and transformative exercise to shift your mindset and quickly start filling any voids you feel from being single.

He teaches us to figure out what we are looking for in a partner and then ask how can you start to bring those elements or qualities into our life right now.

It’s an eye-opening shift that made me realize just how many of us wait until a partner comes along to live out certain dreams.

It’s a short video and free to watch, so I’d really recommend you check it out to gain his insights and go through that exercise to banish feelings of loneliness when you’re single.


5) Because on some level you worry there is something wrong with you

At its heart, loneliness is far more than being alone. It’s actually about feeling understood, connected, and truly seen by others.

In the words of neuroscientist and loneliness expert John Cacioppo:

‘Loneliness is like an iceberg – it goes deeper than we can see’

This disconnection causes a feeling of isolation. That means to feel lonely we don’t just miss others’ company, we feel a certain amount of exclusion or a sensation of somehow being on the outside.

A lot of us when we experience loneliness, feel cut off in some way. And that means we can feel left out, or as if we are missing out.

It’s not always that we feel sad being on our own, it’s that deep down we fear that the reason we are alone is that we’re not wanted, cared about, or loved.

This feeling is made worse when we think other people don’t feel this way (when actually they do).

In short, we worry in the back of our minds that there’s something wrong with us.

In this way, sometimes it’s the stories we inadvertently tell ourselves that actually make us feel lonely not being alone in itself.

So even though in practical terms you do enjoy the single life, you don’t enjoy some of the inferences your mind makes about being single.

It can be useful to ask whether feeling sad about being single comes from missing the company of a partner in your life. Or whether it’s more to do with the fearful negative stories you’re telling yourself about what it means about you if you are single.

6) Because you need to do more

Whilst boredom and loneliness are distinct experiences, it’s easy to see how they can overlap.

The more time we have on our hands, the easier it is to fall into overthinking. But the fuller our life feels with activities, passions, purpose, and people — the less lonely we tend to feel.

Exploring new interests, taking up new hobbies, and keeping busy and active can keep both boredom and loneliness at bay.

Finding contentment in a balanced and well-rounded life often helps to minimize any loneliness you might experience from the absence of a romantic partner.

So even if you are happy single, you might feel a little lonely if you are missing other close connections.

How can I be single and not feel lonely?

Remember that relationships come in many forms in life, not just romantic. So if you feel lonely single, it’s a good idea to strengthen other existing relationships.

We all need to feel love, even when we’re not in love. That can come from family, friends, community, or faith.

But you need to surround yourself with other forms of love and connection. That may mean meeting new people or strengthening existing relationships.

7) Because you’re still learning how to enjoy being alone

One of the best things we can do for our well-being and peace is to make friends with being alone.

Many people still mix up being alone and loneliness.

The first is simply a state of being (one that can bring with it many benefits) but the second is from an emotional attachment to others.

As we’ve seen, a certain amount of attachment to other people is perfectly normal and unavoidable. It’s what makes us human. Social isolation is never good for us. But a lot of us are still working on learning to love our own company.

Being around others can become a habit. So when you do find yourself on your own it feels out of your comfort zone.

We have a culture of distraction that helps us to avoid sitting quietly with ourselves. But actually, when you do, you may get to know yourself better.

Feeling a dis-ease and anxiousness when you don’t have someone around can border on codependency.

If you’re still learning how to be alone you may mistake this for loneliness.

8) Because emotions (and life in general) involve duality

Is it normal to feel lonely when single? Even when you like being single and want to be? Yes, and yes.

People are complicated. A lot of the feelings we experience can seem paradoxical and contradictory.

If it ever feels like there are two voices inside your head, it’s because there are. Research has highlighted how one part of your brain is linked to your emotions, another to logical reasoning.

This can cause conflicting feelings and thoughts to occur. As we all know, the way we feel isn’t always rational.

Whilst conflicting emotions about something (like being single) can feel confusing, it’s normal. There are pros and cons to every life choice and situation.

We all have to accept the duality that comes along with experiences.

You’ve probably heard the expression “you can miss something but not want back”. Similarly, you can enjoy your single life and still miss certain aspects of a relationship.

There’s nothing wrong with feeling this way. Making peace with that duality and being ok with it, rather than trying to push it away, can help us to accept that life is a contradiction at times.

9) Because you’re still open to love and that’s a wonderful thing

Being happy with your single status right now means you can appreciate the positives of your lifestyle. This is a healthy attitude to have.

You’re not desperate to find a partner. You’re not looking for someone else to step in and fulfill your needs. You are independent enough to feel happy single.

But the fact that you experience some loneliness also highlights that close connections are important to you.

You are not isolating yourself or cutting yourself off from the possibility of love. And this is great.

It shows that your heart is open for whatever may come in the future and that you value strong relationships as part of a whole and balanced life.

In conclusion: Can you stay happy alone and single?

As we’ve seen, there are so many perfectly normal reasons why you can be happy single AND lonely.

From the way we’re hard-wired, to the strength of our relationship with ourselves and others in our life.

You can reduce the amount of loneliness you feel by working on yourself, building stronger social bonds, and creating a full and balanced life.

But many of us will also always feel a certain amount of loneliness at times. It’s just a matter of accepting this and finding ways to make sure you deal with any loneliness you face.

Related: People who genuinely enjoy being single have these 7 personality traits

Louise Jackson

My passion in life is communication in all its many forms. I enjoy nothing more than deep chats about life, love and the Universe. With a masters degree in Journalism, I’m a former BBC news reporter and newsreader. But around 8 years ago I swapped the studio for a life on the open road. Lisbon, Portugal is currently where I call home. My personal development articles have featured in Huffington Post, Elite Daily, Thought Catalog, Thrive Global and more.

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